One Year On // #MarRefMemories // I went #HometoVote
May 22 2015. It’s some ridiculously early time. I’m slightly wrecked as I had stayed up a little later than I intended. I was writing this.
Now, a little more than 6 hours later, myself and Tahlula were up, showered and dressed. We were heading to the train station, to catch a flight to get to Ireland. We were going home to vote.
I got a WhatsApp message saying my polling card had arrived. I asked my sister to send me a picture. That’s when it all really kicked in. We were going home to vote for equality, for the same rights as everyone else and as cheesy as it sounds, love.
It’s a weird weird feeling, watching TV, reading the newspapers from abroad about a cause so close to your heart. There’s a disconnect. People are out devoting every second of their spare time, knocking on people’s doors, heroes of the marriage referendum. But, living abroad you’re not going to get that opportunity. They are stuck in the middle and quite rightly should be praised for their efforts. People who were coming home, it seemed, were all coming home to vote ‘Yes’.
I remember having a conversation with Joey, who organised the Gettheboat2vote. He was curating the Ireland account on Twitter. We had a conversation about what hashtag we should use. It was settled. #HomeToVote I’m not sure anyone fully realised the impact our tweets and photos would have on the social media landscape that week.
We started the day in the London Borough of Lewisham, where we live. Tahlula hates getting her photo taken, that’s why you never see her in any. But today, she didn’t mind. So we took a photo in wardrobe mirror, said goodbye to Pudser cat and went off in search of a changing Ireland.
As we’re travelling to London Bridge, I remember having a look at instagram, reading tweets. I could feel a genuine excitement growing. I had seen the pictures of Dublin airport the night before, the swarms of Irish people from around the world who had descended on our island. This vote showed that marriage equality was so important that some would spend a lot of money to come home to vote.
Our train brought us to London Bridge station. It can be a bit annoying sometimes, we have to go into town and back out in a very similar direction to get us on our way to Gatwick. But hey, at least we didn’t fly from Heathrow or Stanstead, which are the other sides of the city from us.
As we boarded the plane, I really did feel like a kid. It was genuinely only then that I realised we could make history. We could vote same sex marriage into being on our little rock. I was bursting with pride.
We land in Dublin. My phone started going bananas. Notifications of retweets going through the roof. I wanted to document the day. I have it set up that my Instagram photos go to Twitter as Twitter native photos (#nerd). The images of our journey so far were being retweeted by many many people. With all the retweets, 21000 people saw this photo. The last photo I posted before leaving the UK, that got 20000. The picture of my polling card was seen by 21700 people.
Working in media, I can be a nerd about social media stats. But knowing that 264k people, over quarter of a million people saw my tweets about the marriage referendum is truly staggering and humbling. If this was how I could contribute to spreading the Yes vote, so be it.
I wait outside the local primary school with the bags while Tahlula votes. Turns out that I’m still on the electoral roll here and I could vote. But, I wanted to vote at home. It was important for me to vote where I grew up.
As we’re on foot, we need to get to the city centre to get a bus to Kells. When you live in a city, you don’t always see the subtle changes happening around you. Walking past The Academy in Middle Abbey Street, I saw a new exterior to the venue and what was written on it.
But there has to be time for food. I love Yamamori. I’ve tried and failed to find a Japanese style restaurant that has food as bloody gorgeous as this place. Genuinely miss this place. An important part of the day.
Busaras. The place of nightmares, overcrowded buses where the drivers have the heat on too high, stuck in traffic til Blanchardstown, waiting for the last bus home in the winter when the wind howls through the place, pleading with the Cavan bus driver to let you off in Kells. Then the ticket almost costs a kidney.
We get to Kells, get a lift to Drumbaragh and I go to vote. The school is literally a minute across the road from our house.
I hadn’t been in the school for years. It was different, extensions had been built, the rooms and layout of the place was different. It was quite emotional putting an X in the Yes box. A Yes vote was going to be a Yes for same sex marriage but also be acceptance of who I am. A No vote would be devastating.
Here’s where a weird disconnect kicks in again. A couple of weeks previously, I was at home in Drumbaragh. As I was leaving the bathroom, I tripped and went flying into the hallway. When I got back to Lewisham, it was getting sorer. I went got an xray, nothing broken, just badly sprained. It could take 3 months to get better!!
The journey of the previous day had taken its toll. So when everyone was partying on the streets of Dublin, there in Dublin Castle waiting for the result to be formally declared. I was sitting in the living room in my Mam’s house with a large bag of peas on my foot.
When I realise what the result actually meant, what it still means, it doesn’t matter. I did what I could I came home to vote.